The Tactical Change at Mansfield

Well, where do we start with last night then. The three second half goals? The two strikers getting off the mark? The two penalty kicks in the first half? The space we allowed them in the first half? Or the brilliant and needed we should emphasise change of formation and tactics in the first half.

Both Orient and Mansfield set up exactly how they were expected to with the Stags making one change from their win at Carlisle with Neil Bishop missing out and Otis Khan coming in. It was a subtle change but one that was working for them in the first half and putting them on the front foot.

Mansfield Away

Orient’s Starting 11

Mansifed First half

Mansfield Starting 11









Both teams were utilising the same system but after the opening exchanges it was clear to see that Mansfield were working the system better and exploiting the open spaces that Orient were leaving. Orient’s back five was being dragged out of position by the movement of Khan, Rose and Maynard. The bombarding wing backs of Benning and Gordon were forcing Ling and Widdowson back towards their own goal.

Space Between Marv and Ling

The space between Ling and Ekpiteta in the first half

Mansfield First HalfOrient’s back three /five were constantly being forced back to their own goal by the tactic of Dempster to play the ball down the sides of Orient’s back three and into the spaces. Another key for Mansfield was Maynard and Rose were not interested in going one on one with Coulson but more about exposing Happe and Ekpiteta into wider areas where they feel they would have more joy.

The ability to occupy the wider center backs helped with the move for the first penalty. Khan drops into a pocked of space behind Clay and in front of Coulson. Turns and feeds the ball down the sides of the three center backs. Rose gets in behind feels the contact and wins the penalty. Let’s not get into the debate of the decision but we can all agree with, another defensive mistake leading to a goal.

Ball between back three, pen 1

Rose’s run in between Ekpiteta and Coulson for first penalty

The spaces in the backline was becoming a worry for the O’s with Ling and Widdowson struggling to deal with the wing backs. Mansfield’s tactic would be to try and get their players in behind with through balls. But if they couldn’t and their out ball would be over the top into the space and let their forward chase and press the ball to prevent Orient from getting out.

Mansfield tactics first half

Mansfield First Half Tactic

Another problem for the Orient, was when in possession, they were being pressed by Mansfield to turn possession over. However when Mansfield had the ball the wider center backs were afforded space to bring the ball forward meaning their more attacking players had license to go forward.

Ball over top to running wing back

Space Between center backs, Gordon getting in behind Widdowson down the Mansfield’s right

The less said about the second penalty the better, make your own judgement on the highlights. Disappointing once more but move on and concentrate on the rest of the game. Mansfield did strike the post with a free kick and before O’s fans are remind me. Orient a huge claim for a penalty after a challenge on Sam Ling in the penalty area but appeals were waved away.

Orient did have chances in the first half through Ekpiteta who saw a header saved but once more Angol and Wikinson were struggling due to the lack of service going forward.

Half Time

To be a fly on the wall inside the O’s dressing room at the break, a change was needed and their seemed just one option; going to a back four. But who would come on? Which centre back would be replaced? Was it back to 4-4-2?

Orient Second half

Change of System in Second Half

Louis Dennis was introduced in place of Dan Happe as the O’s went to a 4-3-3 shape. It did take some time to adjust with Wilkinson initially starting on the right hand side. But soon, Dennis swapped and Orient looked a different side going forward.

Yes, we did afford them space at the start of the second on the wings but the change of system prevented Mansfield from getting out as easily at the back. Orient looked to Angol and Wikinson to win aerial balls and have runners forward into attacking areas.

Orient were utilising their pace in attack with Angol and Dennis look lively making runs in behind Mansfield’s defence. Dennis was involved in Orient’s first in a set piece routine that nearly didn’t work. But eventually Dennis volleyed the ball back for Wilkinson who headed home his first for the club.


The tide had turned and Orient were well in the ascendancy with Coulson going close with a header. The change in tactic had given the O’s more impetus in attack and the Stags were unable to stop them coming forward. With Orient occupying Mansfield back three, their link up was now starting to click.

Remember Angol disallowed goal against Cheltenham, well a carbon copy secured the equaliser on Tuesday night. Angol dummied the ball to Wikinson who in turn played his strike partner in and he notched his first for the club.

Orient now were level and the goal epitomised the change of play in the second half. Runners in behind and off the ball created the chance. Mansfield now had to worry about the threat in behind them and used a tactic you need to use against a back three. Expose the wider center back into area they don’t like to defend.

Exposing wide center back 2nd goal

Exposing the Centre backs

The management team had turned the game on its head, the O’s were braver in attack committed men forward. The three in attack and Brophy just behind were causing all kind of problems for Mansfield but Dempster’s men continued with their same system.

After Orient drew level, Mansfield tried to push for a winner enjoying more possession and territory. But Orient remained a threat on the break with their pace going forward. The O’s made two changes late on, Dale Gorman replaced Connor Wilkinson and Jordan Maguire Drew replaced Joe Widdowson who was forced off with injury.

Last Chnages

After the Substitutions

As the clock struck added time, Orient wasted a late free kick but there would still be one last chance. A great, counter attacking saw Wright play in Angol down the left. He crossed for Dennis who shot against Maguire-Drew and into the net sending the away fans barmy in the away end. A delightful goal and finish to a great second half.

A wonderful finish to a game that had such contrasting emotions from the first half to the second half. The one joy was Orient sensed the winner and committed five in attack in search for the winner, something in the first half you would have been surprised about.

Last minute, men in box

Wright and Gorman searching for Winner

A game of two halves, I think would be a simple statement.Β The key was the change made by the Orient management team at half time. Bravery from the team but they had to change to a back four, the space afforded in the first half was too much.

Either one of Ekpiteta or Happe could have been replaced but the most promising signs was the attacking prowess in the second half. The impact of Louis Dennis off of the bench and the link up between Angol and Wilkinson in the second half.

That 4-3-3 system would seem to suit away from home, pace on the break, counter attacking football. Whether it would be used all the time, I don’t know. Let’s remember we started playing 3-5-2 to get the best players in the team. Their could be an argument to play three in attack but the options now in the squad there are several options to go.

A brilliant comeback and full credit must go to the management team and players . The change worked and should breed confidence going forward. Nothing beats a win on the road in midweek, although nearly lost my glasses after the winner. A small price to pay for that win though.

Onwards to Crawley on Saturday.

About mattbristow271993

Boyhood Leyton Orient fan, but love football in general, any league. Football is my passion.
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